A horrifying and deadly mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip Sunday is almost certain to spark the ever-present underlying American debate on gun control. While few details about the perpetrator are known at this time, attention typically turns to the potential systemic causes of this type of tragedy pretty quickly. There's no way to be sure yet if Nevada's gun laws contributed to the Las Vegas shooting, but people are desperate for a change after this tragedy either way.
The shooting occurred Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The death toll was initially low, but as of early Monday morning, the number of casualties has surpassed that of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub incident to make this the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The exact number of the dead and injured is still in flux, so it could be a while before the nation knows the exact extent of this shooting. The type of guns that the shooter had in possession are still unknown too, as well as details regarding how he acquired his weapons and ammunition.
According to BBC News, Nevada has some of the most lax gun laws of any state in the country. Open carry is allowed, even for assault rifles — the perpetrator allegedly had several of them at his room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. There is no limit to the amount of ammunition that a person can buy at a time, which may have helped the shooter harm more people during the attack. Gun owners also don't have to be licensed with the government, meaning there was no way to potentially track the shooter's movements before the attack and prevent his actions. Ultimately, though, while looser than many states, Nevada isn't that far off from the nation's median state gun laws.
Calls for gun control followed the news of the shooting almost immediately, with much of the public blame for the incident being placed on Congress.
Nelba Márquez-Greene, a gun control activist and mother of one of the 20 children who died in the 2012 Newtown mass shooting, tweeted:
Every day, I am stunned by the level of trauma (direct or vicarious) Congress is willing to make us suffer through. #Newtown #LasVegas.
In another tweet, writer and transgender military veteran Charles Clymer wrote:
Members of Congress:
We don't need "thoughts and prayers", right now.
I have a priest for prayer. I have family and friends for thoughts.
We need legislation. We need action. We need you to do your damn jobs.
Anything otherwise is neither thoughtful nor prayerful.
People also worked quickly to re-publicize the veto of a gun control bill that passed through the Nevada legislature, but died on the governor's desk. Nevada's Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval killed the potential law, which would have made background checks mandatory for private gun sales, in 2013. He claimed that universal background checks aren't necessary because Nevadans should be able to sell their guns on their own to family members or individuals with a license to carry — it's pretty much the legislative equivalent of choosing to be sorry instead of safe.
Though Nevada voters approved the law via a ballot measure last year, there may have been casualties during those years whose deaths could have been prevented were the law enacted when originally proposed and passed. It's unknown whether this law would have impacted the Las Vegas shooter's ability to access a gun, yet the irony of the thing is simply too real to pass up.
The Las Vegas shooting is a demoralizing way to start a Monday morning — most people in this country are taught from young age that they have the power to affect change in the American legal system, that it's one of the things that makes the U.S. such a special place. But the reality of politics has failed to keep Americans safe in recent years as the clock on the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's history keeps resetting.